- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

12:02 p.m.

PARIS (AP) — French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy plans to waste no time making France a friendlier place for business — and a less inviting place for criminals and would-be immigrants — but first he must win control of parliament in new elections next month.

Mr. Sarkozy, a U.S.-friendly conservative and an immigrant’s son, defeated Socialist Segolene Royal by 53 percent to 47 percent with about 85 percent voter turnout yesterday.

The win gave Mr. Sarkozy a strong mandate for his vision of France’s future: He wants to free up labor markets, calls France’s 35-hour work week absurd and plans tougher measures on crime and immigration.

“The people of France have chosen change,” Mr. Sarkozy told cheering supporters in a victory speech that sketched out a stronger global role for France and renewed partnership with the United States.

Exit polls offered some surprises. Some 46 percent of blue-collar workers — traditionally leftist voters — chose Mr. Sarkozy, according to an Ipsos/Dell poll.

Forty-four percent of people of modest means voted for him, as did 32 percent of people who usually vote for the Greens and 14 percent who normally support the far-left. The poll surveyed 3,609 voters and has a margin of error of about 2 percent.

A headline today in Les Echos newspaper, a financial daily, read: “President Sarkozy: a wide majority for reforming the country in depth.” In Le Figaro newspaper, Jean d’Ormesson wrote: “Fasten your seatbelts. This will be quite a ride.”

Mr. Sarkozy is certain to face resistance from powerful unions to his plans to make the French work more and make it easier for companies to hire and fire.

Over the next few days, Mr. Sarkozy “will retire to somewhere in France to unwind a little … and to start organizing and preparing his teams,” said Francois Fillon, an adviser often cited as the leading candidate for prime minister.

With his family, Mr. Sarkozy left his Paris hotel today — dressed casually in jeans — en route to his retreat. The location was not revealed.

The new president, 52, plans to take over power from outgoing 74-year-old leader Jacques Chirac on May 16. Mr. Fillon said Mr. Sarkozy’s new government would be installed May 19 or 20.

The election left little time for celebrating: Legislative elections are slated for June 10 and 17, and Mr. Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party needs a majority to keep his mandate for reforms. A win by the left would bring an awkward power-sharing with a leftist prime minister, which would put a stop to his plans.

Mr. Sarkozy has drawn up a whirlwind agenda for his first 100 days in office and plans to put big reforms before parliament at an extraordinary session in July. One would make overtime pay tax-free to encourage people to work more. Another would put in place tougher sentencing for repeat offenders, and a third would toughen the criteria for immigrants trying to bring their families to France.

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